Norris tops FP3 for McLaren, disaster for Aston Martin

Sebastian Vettel suffered a high-speed crash at the exit of Turn 10 before teammate Lance Stroll crashed into the 11th round in the closing stages, ending the session early.

After missing the season’s opening two races due to COVID-19, Vettel’s difficult return to play continued in Australia as he collapsed 20 minutes into the session. Vettel lost the back of his Aston Martin AMR22 as he exited a quick left-right sequence, making it through gravel and crashing into a wall.

Vettel quickly apologized to the team over the radio before getting out of the car unscathed and returning to the track on a moped that a Marshal had discarded.

The accident came after Vettel lost the run on Friday after an engine problem sidelined him in FP1 and prevented him from participating in any role in FP2. He also received a €5,000 fine for driving an unauthorized scooter on the track at the end of FP1 to return to the track.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin

Photo by: Zach Mauger/Motorsports Pictures

Things went from bad to worse for Aston Martin when Stroll lost control of his car at Turn 11, causing him to run across gravel and stomp into a wall with five minutes remaining.

Stroll was unhurt, but the left front corner of his car was damaged by the collision, leaving Aston Martin with a significant amount of work to complete before qualifying.

The red flag means Norris took the lead for McLaren in FP3 after most advanced drivers failed to get low on fuel at the end of the session.

Norris set a best lap time of 1 minute 19.117 seconds on the soft-composite tyre to finish 10 seconds behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. The British driver was asked to relax under a delayed red flag due to a warning appearing on his dashboard.

Leclerc spent most of the session vying for the lead with Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso in the Alps, who enjoyed a surprising competitive session.

Leclerc, Perez and Alonso were covered by just 0.026sec in second to fourth, while Sainz sat ten tenths behind him in fifth.

Daniel Ricciardo completed a good session for McLaren as he finished sixth, half a second behind his teammate’s time, while Max Verstappen finished seventh with Red Bull.

Verstappen set his best time on the medium compound tire but had a tough session that saw him spin early in Turn 13 before nearly losing the back of his car passing through Turn 1 while on a late push lap. “I don’t understand the spin,” Verstappen said over the radio. “It’s really hard to feel balanced right now.”

Lewis Hamilton also struggled for Mercedes, finishing eighth after narrowly avoiding the wall when he ran away in Turn 11 early in the course. Former teammate Valtteri Bottas finished ninth for Alfa Romeo ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, who completed the Alfauri’s top ten.

George Russell and Pierre Gasly finished 11th and 12th respectively ahead of Esteban Ocon, who was more than eight tenths of a second off Alonso’s sister Albin’s time. Mick Schumacher finished 14th for Haas ahead of rookie Guanyu Zhou and Williams Alex Albon.

Kevin Magnussen finished FP3 17th after struggling until Friday after some nausea all night, while Nicholas Latifi finished 18th ahead of two Aston Martins.

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Australian Grand Prix FP3 times: